Wednesday, July 31, 2013

DDP Yoga: The Next Big thing?

If you have had the pleasure of encountering this video online, you know how inspiring it is. I know it certainly made me tear up when I first watched it, and even know, I never get tired of watching, and get a little misty at the end.

I researched this, and discovered this workout is basically a sort of power yoga with some tai chi thrown in. The reviews are universally positive, and the various transformations are compelling indeed.

I'm not one to be suckered by a moving video, though. Even a really moving video.

It took me the better part of a year to decide this is what I wanted to do. I have a gym membership languishing in my credit card account, but I need something regular. I took yoga there for several months before they cancelled it, and I was amazed at how it made me feel.

I checked out a few reviews:

I Tried: DDP Yoga!
A Review of DDP Yoga... and an Apology to Diamond Dallas Page

The clincher for ordering this was the fact that this is a workout my husband wouldn't feel ashamed to do. He is NOT a healthy man, and is painfully sedentary. The only time he moves is when he goes out on the back porch to smoke.

So for my birthday, I ordered the program.

I've had some trouble getting into it regularly, but I've done several workouts, and LOVE how it makes me feel. I'm shaking at the end, and sweating. My muscles are sore and shaky.

I'm not crazy about the eating plan; it's a gluten-free, dairy-free plan. I really don't buy into the anti-gluten hype, although I'm honestly willing to try something- what I'm doing damn sure isn't working as well as it did in the first place. I can't go dairy-free, though; I love my cheese too much. ;)

But the physical stuff? Feels good. I'm more limber, breathing more easily, (after just a week!) and this is really about more than just getting bendy; DDP (Diamond Dallas Page) is a motivating guy, and he wants you to change your whole life.

Will it change mine? I don't know. I've only done the workout three or four times. But I WANT it to. And I think that's half the battle.

And if nothing else? Maybe I'll finally get to touch my toes.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Final verdict: Standing desk, and where I am right now.

So I've been trying the standing desk for a month, and today, I decided to dismantle it and go back to my regular desk.


Well, I gave this thing a herculean try, but I found it was just driving me away from my desk and into the living room, instead of encouraging me to stand more. As it turns out... my feet HATED it. My legs and back felt great, but I felt the beginning of arch pain that I could NOT risk turning into plantar fasciitis.

Most importantly? I missed my cat.

You see, I have a fat, 11-year-old cat who is my work partner and lap buddy. Since I switched to the standing desk, I haven't had him.

Overall, I didn't feel like the benefits outweighed the negatives, for me. Was it a fun experiment? Absolutely! I think that I may try again in the future when I can afford to get a little more equipment, like proper shoes and a mat to stand on.

Where am I, right now?

I'm in limbo. No, I don't mean my physical location. ;) I'm still in Georgia, and there's a nice, vigorous rainstorm going on at the moment.

No, I'm talking about my weight loss routine. I'm stagnant. I'm paying for a gym membership that I can't get out of, and haven't used, in months, although honestly I would love to... I just can't get the motivation to go.

I did go by a bike shop today to inquire about bike rides they do weekly; they do regular 25 mile rides several times a week.

I need to get my head in the right place. I'm not even tracking my food, and making terrible choices. I've gained about 5 lbs.

This is unacceptable.

My goal for this week and next: To get in three weight training sessions. The other things will follow.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Standing up for myself!

Recent studies have been quite clear: sitting on your ass can kill you. Not just a matter of if, either; the more you sit, the more you raise your risk of dropping dead from a whole host of issues. Even if you're active, and hit the gym regularly, you undo all your hard work by sitting on your bum for 8+ hours a day.

I'm the world's worst about this.  I sit so much my butt starts to hurt, and my back aches.

When I started digging around on the internet for options, I learned much to my horror that entry level standing desks start at $400, and if you want something adjustable, you're going to be shelling out at least $800, and good models run in the thousands.

Errr, no. I'm a poor person. I can't afford that.

Then, I found a $22 Ikea standing desk hack. I started browsing the internet, finding inspiration, pinning my finds on Pinterest, but kept coming back to this. Not only is it cheap, but it would use my existing desk, a beloved desk that was owned by my father and is older than I am.

So, I bit the bullet, pulled out my credit card, and got what I needed. An Ikea lack table, some brackets, and a shelf.

Two days ago, my parts arrived. My dear husband did the dirty job of drilling things (I suck at that) and we put the whole shebang together quickly and easily. I also got an extra shelf and some Capita legs to increase the height of the monitor, but I figure out that in fact, I didn't need it! The height's perfect.

So, here's the end result.

This is the back view. From what I understand, red Scotch electrical tape also matches the color of the shelf perfectly, so I can tape that up and make it all pretty, since this part faces the rest of the house.

This is the view I see. Man, it occurs to me I need to clean my computer!

This entire blog was composed standing up at my new standing desk. I have to say,  I already feel more alert and together, although that could be the placebo effect. I'll report as time wears on. I'm planning on going to the flea market to find some bar stools or such for when I need to sit, since I'm sure I'll need to get used to standing for long periods of time again.

Some fun benefits. The package from Ikea also came with some green bubble wrap that you can't pop like the usual stuff. As it just so  happens, it's REALLY comfortable to stand on! So I'm using that as a mat until I can get a good, new anti-fatigue mat.

And Noodles has discovered that in fact, he can sit in my chair behind me, since I'm not using it. I suppose he approves of the standing desk!

So yay for another step towards good health!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

How I learned to use coupons, and save $30-$70 a trip

This is a bit off topic for my blog, but well, this was asked by a friend, and this was the easiest way to share the info, so I figured I'd post it here. I like to use coupons, because in my opinion, not doing so is like throwing money away, and if you're smart, you can save quite a bit. I average between $30-70, and that's with some very half-ass focus and I could probably save a lot more if I tried harder.

I'm no extreme couponer, but I've been known to save a bit here and there. There's a couple of things you need:


Unless you like tracking sales papers, spreadsheets, and such, you don't want to keep up with prices. I'm lazy. ;) I use Southern Savers for my tracking needs. It's got all the local stores for us in the southeast (including Food Lion, although that's been closed here now), but there's a number of large ones out there! I like Southern Savers because it also has printable shopping lists and does all the matchups for me. With careful planning, doubling, match, you can save a huge quantity of cash.


There are several ways of getting them. Newspapers, of course; a weekly subscription is the cheapest way. Some people pay for multiple subscriptions, but honestly I don't have room for huge stockpiles, so one subscription is plenty. Make sure you're on your store's mailing list; I regularly get mailings from Kroger and Publix. I signed up for the Publix stocking spree even though I don't have one, because we're getting one eventually, and I can trade them online if I should need to. (Yes, you can trade coupons. It's fun!)  There are also hundreds and hundreds of dollars worth of printable coupons. With a bit of ink and a decent printer, you can save tons of cash with printables. Be careful where you get them from, though; some sites take advantage of the coupon craziness and will put out scam coupons.

I use either Southern Savers for  my links, or I use my MyPoints account to print coupons. The best part about MyPoints is I also get 10 points per coupon printed and redeemed, and I can save up points (doing other things on the site, too) for gift cards. I won't spam you or anything, but if you think that's something you'd like to do, let me know and I'll refer you. That's a complete tangent, though, and not relevant. Depending on where you get your cards, the odds are it comes from - most sites get paid for referrals, but that's usually the source. You'll need to install a browser plugin to use the printer, because there are limits to printing. Most coupons can be printed twice, and that's it for that computer. YOu can, however, get squirrelly and print from multiple computers. The really dedicated couponers have as many as 5 or more... that's 10 prints per coupon. I'm... not that dedicated.

You can also visit online sites and get eCoupons for many stores., for example, has a bunch that you just point, click, and load to your card, and it comes off automatically at the register. No clipping, no sorting, just saving. I find it hard to remember which is which sometimes, though.

CVS is a magical land of savings. With some planning, you can abuse the hell out of their ExtraCare Bucks system and stop paying for things like toothpaste, shampoo, etc. I use the ECB system to get a good chunk of my kids' Christmas gifts for free. (This will of course end as they get old and care abouts things like brand names, but hey, right now? CVS brand dump truck is enough to keep them thrilled.)


As you can imagine, juggling coupons is annoying. I don't cut them all out; there's a few ways of doing this. I like the accordion file method, where I file the inserts whole, and only clip as I need to. Some people like to do the baseball card sleeve method, where they use a three ring binder and sort them. I find this tedious and can't be bothered. LOL. I do all my planning before I leave, paperclip my coupons together, and hand them to the cashier at once. I can't stand trying to flip through a binder in the store. Plus you look like a lunatic. Everyone's different, though, so try different methods to see what works for you.

Getting the Money!

The trick to getting the best deals are to save the coupons up, and match them up to the sales and price cycles. you see, as you've no doubt noticed, prices are rarely the same at the store. There's actually a method to the madness! There are cycles, and the price of a given item will rise and fall to a max and minimum price. Your goal is to buy things (preferably with coupons) at the lowest point in the cycle whenever possible. Even without coupons, it's going to save you a bundle; after all, which is better, buying split chicken breast at $3.99 a pound, or $.99 a pound? Even without a coupon, that's going to save you some serious cash.

Don't buy things you don't need; I refuse to be wasteful, and it's not a deal if it's not something you would have normally bought anyway. Sure, you can save $2.50 on $5.00 worth of bear asses, (50% off!) but if you didn't need any bear asses, you've wasted $2.50 that you weren't going to spend.

Now, I'm lazy, and I don't give a rat's behind about sales cycles and such, so I let someone else do the hard work for me. Why reinvent the wheel? I check the Southern Savers website, get my printable list, add the things I need, print and/or clip the coupons I need, and go. They do most of the work, and you can find an even more detailed walkthrough written by an actual expert who does this sort of thing for a living.

Now, you can get super crazy with this, spend hours and hours a week, and end up on a TV show like Extreme Couponers, have a hoarder-style stockpile, and whatever. I honestly am not that dedicated nor do I care that much. I have the time, but not the willpower. ;)  At most, I spend an hour or two a week poring over a website, printing, clipping and preparing. But that pays off! Today, I made a trip to Kroger, bought $230 worth of groceries, including some much-needed meats and veggies, and paid $160. That's $70, for the math impaired. $70 of free groceries, for two hours worth of work. That's $35 an hour.

I'll take that.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I should have been at my goal weight by now

When I started on this journey, more than a year ago, by this point I thought I would be at my goal weight. I thought I'd shed off the pounds, be fit as a fiddle, and running around at my high school weight. I didn't figure I'd wear a bikini or anything, (pregnancy made sure that the trainwreck that is my stomach is something I'm not comfortable showing to the world) but I thought for sure I'd at least be in a size 10 by now.

But I'm not.


Well, it comes down to a few things. Life. Stress. Lack of self control. Having a husband who is profoundly overweight. I could point my fingers everywhere. What it comes down to is that I didn't do what needed to be done.

But I don't consider myself a failure. In fact, I think I'm pretty successful, for all I still have 30 lbs  or so to go.

I have kept the weight off. What I've lost, I've kept off. I haven't gone back to old habits.

Over the last year, I've learned to be healthy. I am not dieting or anything like that, and all those babysteps have added up to the point where I'm no longer afraid of maintenance. Heck, I maintained a steady weight for 6 months without even trying, when I fell off the wagon the last time.

So I'm losing slowly. I don't mind that. This has been a journey of education, of self-discovery. Of learning that I like being healthy, that I enjoy being fit. I'm fitter now than I have been since college, for all I'm still overweight. I'm not obese anymore. I'm proud of that progress. I'm wearing clothes that I look good in, I have self confidence, and most importantly, I haven't given up. I haven't done as so many people do and start, and then quit after a few months. I am not on the yoyo train, I haven't had to shed the same 10 lbs over and over again.

I think I'm doing well.

This feels like a turning point for me. I'm almost zen about it; I just feel philosophical. I've been fat for a long time. I've felt fat for a long time. I don't feel fat anymore. I still glare at my gut, and wish it would go away, but I don't frown or avoid the mirror, and I've caught myself checking out my butt a time or two.

So if it feels like your progress is achingly slow, look at the big picture. What matters isn't that you shed the weight to look good in a wedding dress, or for a reunion, or whatever special event you want to reach. It's not about fitting a bikini, or any of that. This is a journey of healthy living for life.

And suppose that I didn't lose a single other pound. I stayed right here, at 184, for the rest of my life.

You know what? I'm okay with that. It's not ideal, and I could be healthier, but as long as I stay active, eat right, I think I would be okay with whatever my weight is. As long as I can outrun my children, play with my dog, lift weights, and enjoy a very tasty slice of whole wheat toast with peanut butter... who cares what that stupid scale says?

I have to love me, no matter what my weight. What if I reach my goal weight, but I'm not happy with my body? It happens all the time. People somehow link a certain scale number with happiness, and they reach it, and discover that happiness doesn't magically fall from the sky.

To be successful in this journey, I think you have to do more than just lose weight. I think you have to work on the inside. Focus on that brain. If your brain isn't ready and able to cope with the journey, you won't make it to the end. And even if you do, you won't stay there. I think the reason so many people gain the weight back is because they never go their mind together.

So think about it. What can you do to get your brain in order? How can you change your mindset to be less about the scale?

Photo courtesy of ddddaniel.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

My New Secret Weapon... revealed!

Okay, I've been hinting at my new secret plan, and today, I finally get to reveal what it is.

I was privileged enough to receive an advance review copy of Sparkpeople's new book, "The Spark Solution: A Complete Two-Week Diet Program to Fast-Track Weight Loss and Total Body Health."

 I've been stalled for a while, mostly because of self-control issues, and when I was offered a chance to check it out, well, who am I do say no?

The plan has been absolutely fantastic. The food is good (as anyone who has tried one of Chef Meg's recipes can tell you) and the plan is easy to follow; it's about education. It's a "diet" book, I suppose, because it provides you with specific foods to eat, but what it really does is teach you how to make smarter choices. It provides specific foods you might eat, and then provides an alternate option that is better, and teaches you how to make clever substitutions that lower calorie count and boost nutrition. I'm sticking white cannelini beans in the weirdest stuff now, and I'm amazed at how much bulk I'm getting as a result. ;) Seriously, who would have thought to stick kidney beans in an enchilada?

Overall, I have really enjoyed this book. It's written in the upbeat, positive style that is Sparkpeople's unique voice, and includes tons of helpful tips that when applied, can result in big changes.

I will admit I didn't do much in the way of the exercises; I have an exercise plan I follow, and prefer more advanced strength training moves. But I have been following the plan, and have been thrilled. In the first week, I lost two pounds. I'm down 4, total! Given that my weight hasn't moved in months, that's what makes me happiest. The best part is how I am not hungry; these plans provide perfect nutrition to stave off cravings, and I find I don't even miss the stuff I'm skipping.

Now, you may ask, why in the world should you get this book? Well, for starters, the freebies that come with preordering (3 months of SparkCoach, a bucket of sparkpoints, and some DVDs) are well worth the cover price anyway.

But if you're just starting out on your journey, or are stuck and bored with the plan you have... I seriously think you should consider this. I mean, come on, a diet plan that includes cookies for breakfast? Seriously? (I'm not kidding. There are breakfast cookies.)

This isn't a diet like other diets. It doesn't promise to shed pounds with little effort, or "burn fat" more than others. It's about teaching you to make healthy choices for life. Teaching you to think about what you're putting in your body, and eat for energy. It's about mindfulness. None of these recipes are "diet food" - my favorite is the curried tuna salad sandwich. I used to make my tuna sandwiches with tuna, a splotch of light mayo, and a slice of cheese. This recipe uses curry powder, cucumbers, cranberries, and a bit of greek yogurt, and it's served warm. I added a little bit of shredded mozzarella for a cheesy addition. Stuffed into a sandwich round, it was honestly the best tuna sandwich I'd ever had. :)

Nearly every recipe includes veggies. Even things that you wouldn't expect to find veggies (like the aforementioned enchiladas) have added vegetable content in ways that aren't intrusive. It doesn't feel like you're sneaking them in, but it DOES make it much easier to get those vegetable servings in each meal.

Now, there were a couple of recipes that I got a bit frustrated with. Some of this may have been my lack of sleep, but one or two were too complicated for my liking. I couldn't afford a big trip to the grocery store for some of the ingredients. However, thanks to the information in the book, I felt comfortable swapping out things in the recipe for stuff I had on hand (no cucumbers? Dice some bell peppers instead!) because that's kinda the whole point.

Best of all, this is a two week plan, but the subtitle is very misleading. This isn't just a two-week diet plan. This is a handholding introduction to healthy living, and after you finish the plan, it arms you with the tools and resources to keep moving forward. One thing any of you who have seen or read anything I write now, I don't diet. I don't deny myself, I don't skip things I enjoy, and I refuse to disallow myself any food.

That didn't change following this plan.  I averaged around 1600 calories a day (a little more than the plan recommends, but necessary for me) and still had days where I had takeout pizza, or even a bowl of ramen noodles. But I did stick primarily with the plan, and will continue to follow it for a while. I stopped for about a week, and found myself immediately feeling rough again... not tracking and ignoring the things I learned caused me to pay a price. I'm planning on doing it again starting this week.

This is a plan I like. And the cheesy chicken pouch? Dear lord, that thing is a sin, and no one who is "dieting" should ever eat it. At least, it tastes like you shouldn't.  But that's what I love about the Spark Solution... you can have it, and eat it, too. Guilt free.

So please, if you're looking for a change in your routine, just getting started, or are plateaued and want a change, preorder the Spark Solution. If you do this plan, you won't regret it.

Besides, it's just two weeks. How long have you been fat? Two weeks is nothing. You have that kind of time. Try it. :)

Full disclosure! I received an advance copy of this book for free from SparkPeople and did not receive any form of payment for my review.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

When did I start eating low-carb?

Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about low-carb diets. I don't like them, I don't support them, and while I know that they work for some people, they're not a good choice for me. I really don't feel like people need to eliminate entire food groups from their diet to succeed.

You see, I LIKE carbs. I love pasta. I adore pizza. I really do love it!

But over the past year or so, I've been making healthier choices, and have started choosing complex carbs over simple carbs. I eat a lot more veggies. Instead of pasta four times a week, I might have it one. I skip my morning breakfast biscuits more often than not, now.

I have been noticing on my nutrition reports, though, that I'm usually under the minimum ranges for carbs, and I'm not sure how that happened. (Click to expand.)

The green range is where I'm supposed to be.

Here's my graph from the first couple of months I used Sparkpeople. (very low points are likely days I didn't track accurately.)

Now, I don't really see this as a problem; the carbs I do get are high-quality. I don't avoid bread, I eat whole wheat. I like my pasta, but I mix it half-and-half. I'm more likely to skip the tortillas, but I still enjoy a good fajita bowl.

It's just weird; I didn't choose this, it just happened. I don't stress about it, and believe me, on the days I work out, I make sure I get enough (you can tell what days those are, they're the ones in the green ranges.)

Strange how habits change.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Healthy living is about more than what you eat!

Before: It's easy to toss stuff aside to deal with later, right?
As I've walked this road and grown in this journey, I've taken a lot of deep, introspective looks into my life. Part of that has been dealing with my home. As some of you who have read my blog in the past know that I have issues with clutter. To put it bluntly, I live at the step just before you get on TV with a camera crew and a bunch of junk trucks at the house while you scream at people for touching your stuff.

So I'm trying to battle these tendencies, and beat back the clutter. Because taking care of my body in the *inside* isn't enough. I have to take care of it on the outside, too. My home is a reflection of my inner being, and I'm no longer depressed, carrying too much dead weight, and unmotivated to clean.

But I have years worth of clutter to work through. And I'm doing it alone; my girls are too small to be of much  help (though they enthusiastically try, they end up making more work.) My husband is too sick and wrapped up in his own issues to be of much use, either. I could scream and nag and yell, or I can just do it and hope he joins in.

So I've made it a goal each day to tackle one trouble spot in the house. There's a lot, so this'll take a while. ;) But I am making progress. Last week, I spent 3 1/2 hours doing dishes. We now have a clean kitchen!

Then, I tackled a shelf that was cluttered from a previous cleanup attempt elsewhere. It's now neat and tidy.

I organized the headboard of my bed, which was a rickety stack of half-read paperbacks, into a neat and organized shelf uncluttered with random junk.

I also attacked a box of clothes that had sat untouched for months... Everything in it went into a drawer or a donation bag.

Today I got a wild hair... I was feeling really motivated, so I folded all the laundry my husband washed and didn't fold. Then, I cleaned up the pile in the hallway by his desk that was creeping along the floor and becoming a hazard. Finally, I called my husband and asked if he minded me cleaning up his desk.

He gave me the green light, and I did.

So, a full bag of donation clothes, three trashbags, and a lot of 409 later, the  hall spot is clean so the girls can hang up their book bags and coats without leaning over junk, and he actually HAS a desk, instead of a teetering pile of papers. I didn't mind helping him with that, since it contained a lot of my stuff from before I got the dining room cleared out and set up a work station.

This is also my way of trying to help his recovery. You see, the clutter in our home is constant stress and cognitive dissonance. It triggers unhealthy reactions in both of us. Anger, binging, even drinking (in his case.) I can't tell you how often I've thrown a temper tantrum over the clutter and then reached for something in the fridge to compensate.

You see, the same principles that have applied to my growth in healthy living can be applied in all aspects of my life. Baby steps! I can't clean this whole house at once... it's too much for one person, I can't afford a personal organizer, and it's not bad enough to end up on TV. ;) So, I take it in bite-sized chunks, the way I did when I started trying to lose weight.

We get SO wrapped up in all or nothing. We look at the sum-total of what we have to do, and we get discouraged. I've been there! You see, I've lost entire rooms to this clutter problem. I've stood there, looked around the house, and couldn't fathom how I'd ever do it. I've stared at my fat in the mirror naked and turned away, discouraged because I can't make it disappear, right now.

But you know something? I can focus on the next pound. I can pick up those socks over there. I can make it a habit to take something to the trash every time I get up from my desk. I can clear a 3 x 3 space in my home.

I've found that like clutter, clean spreads. If you make a nice, neat space, you're more likely to pick up the pile of papers beside it. This is the principle behind clean-living guru Flylady's program, too. You start with a shiny sink, and magically, the dishes tend to get done because you want to keep that sink shiny. Then you wipe the counter, because who wants a dirty counter next to a shiny sink? And well, you might as well wipe the stove too.

And the floors need mopping.

Which takes you to the dining room. Better empty that trash.

Healthy living is the same. What's the point of eating whole wheat spagetti if you're going to load it down with two pounds of cheese? (Guilty!) So you eat a little less cheese. You put a little less sugar in your coffee. You eat another vegetable or two instead of second helpings of fried chicken.

After: Days of cleanup and countless trash bags later.
And suddenly, you're 25 pounds lighter, your pants are loose enough you need to use a belt hole you've never used before, you can walk through your house without tripping, and you're going to bed with a smile on your face.

Am I done yet? Not by a long shot. I have a lot of growth ahead of me. A lot of weight loss. A lot of cleaning.

But I know I CAN do it, because I AM doing it.

Oh, and my husband? He's helping too. ;) He's started picking up things he finds here and there... and he's been helping with the dishes. And making salads for dinner.

We can do this. Together.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Diet is nice, but exercise?

So I've figured out one of the reasons I've struggled to lose weight lately.

It's exercise.

Now, to be clear, I have lost weight; I just tend to lose it, gain it, and back again. My diet is mostly in tune, but I have a tendency to eat high.


Because I'm simply not satiated on less. I will never be able to function on 1200-1500 calories. My current range is 1400-1700 or so. This suits me, for the most part, but without exercise, I have to eat at the bottom of the range to do more than just maintain (which is what I've done since my 3 lb loss. It has stayed off, though!)

The secret, for me, is exercise. With exercise, I can eat more. When I work out, I like the balls-to-the-wall classes, like kickboxing. The more I exercise, the more I can eat! I am pretty good at getting lots of protein, so I don't need massive quantities.

Exercise has more benefits than an increased calorie range, though.

When I exercise, my moods are SO much better. I'll ride the high from a tough class for at least a day, and just feel fantastic. I ache less, and my arthritis bothers me less.

I understand that not everyone can join a gym. Not everyone has to. Maybe your exercise of choice is a video, or even a walk. I don't really think the kind of exercise you do is nearly as important as enjoying the exercise you do.

One critical component of exercise is strength training; without it, your program is incomplete, and you're abandoning the most important thing you can do. Strength training boosts your metabolism, and helps you look and feel better in the skin you're in. I love to lift weights, although I do keep a set of resistance bands at home. Not to mention, if you're not strength training, as much as 25% of your weight loss can come from lean muscle... which *drops* your metabolism. To preserve it, you need to hit the weights! (Or body weight exercises, or resistance bands. You get the idea.)

The point is, while you can lose weight by diet alone... it's so much harder. Exercise provides more than just weight loss benefits... it has incalculable benefits inside and outside of your body.

Best of all? It gets you away from this computer. ;)

Monday, February 4, 2013

Good, better, best?

What should you be eating to get fit?

So often people ask "Is this healthy?" or "Should I eat this or this?"

I say you don't have to have the best to be healthy, lose weight, and get fit.

Running is one of the best calorie burners around, minute for minute. It's cheap, it can be done anywhere, and it scorches calories like nobody's business.

But if you can't run, or hate running, what good does it do you? So, when you have a choice between nothing, running, and something, you go for something. A walk you will do just as well. Because what matters isn't how many calories you burn in an hour, but how many calories you eat over the course of a week, and you adjust that number anyway. Your 1 lb per week will come off the same if you burn more and eat more, or burn less and eat less.

Whole grain bread is better than whole wheat bread. But if you hate the taste of whole grain bread, and won't eat it, what good does it do you? I would rather eat sawdust than your average loaf of "whole grain" bread. I can't stand the texture. Is Nature's Own Honey Wheat the absolute best thing for my body? No, it's not. There are tons of brands that are healthier, lower calorie, have more fiber, more whole grains, or whatever.

But I like the taste, it's far better than enriched white bread, and my husband and kids will eat it without complaint.

If I bring in a loaf of whole grain, it molds.

Black beans are all the rage these days, and are in all kinds of "healthy" dishes, used as replacements in all sorts of "fake out" meals that trick you into thinking you're getting something your'e not. That's all well and good, but I happen to HATE black beans! So, which is better... a black bean burger that turns my stomach, or a lean ground beef patty that has my mouth watering?

Is organic better for your body and environment? Absolutely. No one needs pesticides, and research has shown the antibiotics in commercially produced meat aren't good for any of us. But when organically grown meat is $1 or more per pound more than regular, it may not be a good choice for you. I could buy all organic, but my food bill would double, which would make my available budget less, and at the end of the month, we'd be eating ramen noodles and mac and cheese, instead of lean meats and fresh veggies.

Best isn't always better, and good is sometimes just fine. So don't be bound by what is "best", "healthiest", or aim for what's absolutely perfect.

Work with your budget, your tastes, your needs, and don't beat yourself up for not being a perfect vegan health nut who only shops at specialty locally grown farmer's markets and whole food stores.

Start where you are. Don't insist on perfection. Work with what you have, what you like.

After all, that organically grown handmade tofu and wheatgrass veggie burger made only from fresh, whole ingredients is useless if it tastes like cardboard and your family won't eat it.

Photo courtesy of Newbirth35

Friday, February 1, 2013

You are what you eat?

So I just watched a documentary on Netflix. It's called Hungry for Change. Before it got to the end and devolved into a juicing and detox infomercial (seriously, I hate that stuff... if I want to eat more fruits and vegetables, I will eat more fruits and vegetables, nutrients and fiber intact, and you can't detox anyway. Your body doesn't work that way, and there is NO credible science that they work.) it was actually very enlightening and intelligent.

One of the things they talked about constantly was how our bodies get effectively addicted to sugar, because sugar is in EVERYTHING. If you're a big white bread eater, that gets basically metabolized right into sugar, too.

This made a lot of sense to me. I know that when I eat simple carbs, I STAY hungry... I can't get enough. Eat chinese food with lots of pasta or rice, or italian with pasta, or mexican with flour tortillas, and I'll be hungry again in an hour... no matter how much I ate.

I'm not a low-carber. I don't endorse the diets. I'm sure they work for some people, but I'm not interested in eliminating nutrients, nor reducing them. Carbs are not the devil. I like carbs. A LOT! In fact, carbs are actually the body's preferred quick fuel source. There's a reason distance runners carbo-load before marathons! The problem comes when we eat overly refined carbs that metabolize straight into sugar when we eat them, and eat more than our bodies burn, so it gets stored right away as fat. And leaves the body starving for nutrition while it's full from the calorie overload you just gave it. High in calories, low in nutrition.

I recently saw a person on SP who was complaining about gaining weight in spite of eating in her calorie ranges. I peeked at her trackers, and was stunned to find that yes, she's eating between 1200-1550 calories a day, but 30-50% of that was all candy and sweets! Trips to Starbucks, candy for lunch... its no wonder she isn't losing! All calories are not created equal. 100 calories of broccoli is so much you can't finish it, and it's packed with vitamins and minerals that keep you full and healthy. 100 calories of chocolate is gone in a flash, and leaves you hungry and wanting more. If you want your body to be healthy, you have to fuel it properly.

I think what I DO need to do is start focusing on the quality of my foods. I'm already moving in that direction. I eat whole grains instead of refined white stuff. Whole wheat bread, pasta, etc. I'm trying to add more veggies; I'm up to 5-6 servings of vegetables a day... up from 0-2.

I'm going to focus more on eating healthy and clean. Whole foods, made-from-scratch seasonings and such. Part of the reason I have such a sodium problem is because I tend to easy to make kits and prepackaged stuff, frozen prepared foods (like pre-breaded chicken) and stuff to heat and eat.

So I think my project for the next month is to make as much of the food I eat as possible to not have a nutrition label.  Fruits, veggies, and meats from the outside perimeter of the store. I'm going to aim to reduce my sugar intake. I'm not going for perfection here, I'm just going to start adding this stuff gradually.

Today I already started down that road; dinner consisted of fajitas with fresh-cut bell peppers and onions, with chicken breasts. The kids both got a helping of raw bell peppers and onions. While at the grocery store, we took a look at some cereal. The two boxes I picked up were strawberry mini wheats, and Special K with strawberries.

On the box of strawberry mini wheats? No mention of strawberries. There's a long laundry list of long, unpronounceable chemical names, but no strawberries in it. Mmmm, it does have sorbitol, though!

The Special K? Rice. Whole grain wheat. sugar, wheat bran, strawberries, brown sugar, wheat fiber, less than 2% salt, and malt flavoring.

This is the natural progression for me. I'm already aiming, instead of "I can't have it but I want it" for "I can have it but I don't want it." I don't deny myself anything, but as I've learned more about
what's in my food, how many calories things "cost", that they just aren't appealing. I am resolving to read those labels, and choose things that have the fewest. While eating some "reduced sugar" instant oatmeal today, I looked at the label in horror to find a list of some 20+ ingredients, including artificial sweeteners and flavorings.

So I threw it away, and bought a container of instant oatmeal. Ingredient list: Oats. I can add my own brown sugar and maple syrup if I want it.

I had chips with dinner for the first time in a month, and it just... wasn't good. I didn't even finish them. I've gotten to where I always have a bag of carrots and broccoli in the fridge for easy snacking. I just need to expand my options. Instead of grabbing an msg-laden fajita seasoning mix, I need to make my own. I have dozens of cookbooks I never use. I just need to stop being lazy, and start doing what is good for my family, and for me.

Besides, it's hella cheaper than going out to eat all the time.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Changing my stress response

I'm not hungry... just bored!

One of the biggest challenges any overweight person must face is how to deal with stress. We all have stress; it's hardly a unique trait. How we respond to it, however, can make or break your journey to healthy living.

What I used to do was sneak around and eat. I'd make a trip to Burger King for the family, and eat an extra biscuit on the way home, and throw the wrapper in the trash on the way in. Or I'd sneak off to Waffle House for a 1200 calorie meal.

I'd throw myself into a double helping of spaghetti, or constantly stand in front of the refrigerator, desperately seeking something to take my mind off the stress. I like to think I'm a laid back person, but really what I am is a person who has trained herself to pretend there is no problem.

So over the last year or so, I've been trying to  adjust my stress response.  Instead of heading to the kitchen when I'm bored, I'll open a game of Bejeweled. If the tension in the house is too much, I'll try and go for a walk, instead.

If I DO turn to boredom or stress eating, I'm trying to make healthier choices, instead of just simple, heavy carbs. I haven't willingly eaten a chip in over a month. They just don't interest me anymore.

If I catch myself having trouble resisting a particularly tasty treat, I make less of it, or not have it so often. (I'm looking at you, tiny tasty ham sandwiches.)

Over time, this has added up to big changes.

This week, I resolved to STOP my late night snacking. That was what was sabotaging my efforts. I'd do so well all day, but then my husband would break out his crackers and cheese, or he'd make something I love, and bam, nom nom nom over my calorie range.

But the last two days, I've stopped doing that. If I DO have a snack, it's a very small one, like a slice of cheese or a string cheese stick. (What? I like cheese.)

But more importantly, when I do snack during the day, or make a meal, I've been trying to be healthier. That turkey stroganoff I made last night was just as good as my usual, but half the calories... just by substituting the meat.

I'm slowly trying to change my way of thinking. The last three weeks have been one of the most  hellishly stressful I've experienced in a very long time, but I have NOT turned to food for solace. Not only have I not gained weight like I usually do, I've lost.

The first time my husband was hospitalized,  I spend the time I had alone going to restaurants, dining on fried cheese sticks, wings, anything to make me feel better.

I don't know when that shift happened, but I like it.

I like it a lot.

Oh, and that 187 came back this morning. If it's still there tomorrow, I'm counting it, baby.

Photo courtesy of Buzzfarmers

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Head Games...

Head games, it's you and me baby 
Head games, and I can't take it anymore 
Head games, I don't wanna play the... 
Head games 

Yeah, so I have Foreigner in my head this morning.

I'm psyching myself out again. I've been on this plateau for so long (okay, it's not a plateau, it's maintenance, be honest with yourself, Heather!) that an actual loss doesn't feel real.

So I lost a pound last week, and recorded it on my official weigh in day. 190.6

Well, only four days later, I'm reading 187.

Wait... what?

Okay, I know all the mantras... fluid loss, takes time, don't weigh every day, yadda yadda. I'm not the sort to be married to the scale, but I've had a hard time with sodium lately, so I'm using the scale as sort of a sodium reaction meter.

I've been very inactive; I've been to the gym once, and I have thrown in a little weight lifting here and there with my husband at home, we're talking less than 10 minutes, with some squats and bicep curls just to keep moving.

I'm going to assume this is a fluid loss, since I've been maintaining for months so it's a little like starting out anew.

I still don't trust it, though. I don't want to record it, and then have to change it when I hit another spike.

So I'll continue to monitor this, and if it averages out all week... I'll count it.

But man, I hate these head games. ;)

I will report that my anniversary dinner went well last night. I chose a 9 oz filet mignon (OMG GOOD), broccoli, a smidge of pasta, and a side of oysters. I stayed more or less in my calorie range! Even with snacks, I didn't go over. Well, not by much. Usually I OD on special occasions, with gleeful abandon.

Now, my real weight loss happened in my wallet. Maybe that 3 lb loss is actually the loss of a $100 meal from my pocket. ;) Ah well, it was worth it.

Photo courtesy of Calgary Reviews

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The perils of self-delusion

Paula Deen's Buffet in Savannah, Georgia

A lot of us try to figure out where, exactly, all this weight came from. How we got so big. When it happened that we accepted being fat. How do we not see what we're doing to our selves?

My theory is that you DO see... you just don't want to acknowledge it. Even when directly confronted with it, you aren't ready to accept it, yet.

I can use my own husband as an example of this. He has been in denial about his weight gain for quite some time now. He still tells people his sizes are "large" and "34 waist" even though he hasn't been either for years, and wears ill-fitting pants that look terrible on him.  He's between a 36 and a 38... probably bearing down on 38, though his belly is far larger. IF I had to guess, he's probably easily 46 around his belly button.

When asked how much he weighs by someone the other day, he said "185" - when I'm almost 50 pounds lighter than he is at 190, and I know this because he was just weighed a couple of weeks ago at 235 by the doctor - which I was present for. He honestly heard 185, because that's what he wanted to hear.

He says his large gut is because of bloating (because he has a medical condition that can and has caused bloating in the past, but it's always gone down after a few days... this has been persistent for over a YEAR. It's fat, hun.).

He says his butt hangs out of his pants because they shrink in the dryer.

He's finally starting to have to admit that there's a problem, though. It's gotten badly enough that his too-small pants are rubbing open sores on his stomach scar, that his belly is hanging out of his too-small shirts. He said earlier today that he's going to have to start buying XL shirts. He missed the XL boat 20 lbs ago. He's a 2X or I'll eat my hat.

I love him, but he's very self-deluded right now. He knows I'm very health conscious, and count calories, and I've made a lot of progress, but he's not willing to trade in his plates of fried food and refusal to eat regular vegetables yet, nor start exercising. When he's ready, I'll be there with him, but until he's ready, it won't happen.

It's so difficult when I'm struggling to stay on board this train, and he's refusing to acknowledge he needs to be on it at all. If we could do this together, we could help each other so much. Instead of fixing his favorite high-calorie low-nutrient meals, we could make healthy things together. I've gotten him to eat a little healthier, by subbing salads for baked potatoes now and again, or always making veggies when I cook, but since he's the primary cook, it's always fried pork chops, steaks and taters, french fries, and macaroni and cheese. He's always downing sodas... at least 2-3 per day.

It doesn't help when he sabotages me. It's not on purpose, ever, but my willpower is very shaky these days. I just can't always say no when he presents me with my favorite foods, like Velveeta shells and cheese (360 calories a cup... and that's not even considering the sodium overdose.) He'll surprise me with treats. He bought a bag of powdered donuts "for the kids" and when I asked him what they were for, he said "breakfast."

Really? We have two young children, one of whom is confirmed ADHD, and you're feeding them powdered sugar for breakfast?

It's not that he wants me to fail (not consciously, at least) but he genuinely has no idea how what he brings into this house affects me. I can even see the difference on those rare occasions we go to the buffet. his plate is always BROWN, and I always load mine and the girls' up with colorful veggies. The problem is when he fixes one of their plates, it's just as brown as his. It doesn't help that we live in the south, home to fried chicken, fried fish, french fries, and vegetables so drowned in fats and meats that whatever healthy might have been in them is long gone.

It's an uphill battle that I'm fighting by myself. I can't make him join me until he's ready. If he can't even accept his own weight when he sees it on the scale himself and is told by a nurse, how can I expect him to do it at home?  So I struggle within the bounds I'm given, and hope and pray that he'll eventually join me. I ask him to join me on walks, I talk about my calorie range and hand him celery any time I'm nomming a veggie tray. He knows, he's just not ready to join me.

I can't make him see, all I can hope is that he'll see the way I did. And when he's ready, I'll be there to celebrate with him and hold his hand through the process.

Photo courtesy of John Hyun

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Look ma, I haven't forgotten!

I wasn't going to blog today, because I didn't feel like I had anything to say, but I realized well, I do!

Today has been a pretty good day. I actually did an 8 minute interval training video (the one linked on the first day of the January Jumpstart fitness challenge) and it was fun! A lot more intense than I expected. I've been concerned about my ankle, and that's been holding off activity, but I haven't had much pain beyond when I sit on it (I sit indian style a lot) and such, so I figure it's time to start testing.

I couldn't do any jumping, so I modified things, but my heart rate was definitely up (should've worn my HRM!)

I managed to hit almost every nutritional goal today, too. I stayed in my calorie range (just barely over the minimum, actually) and hit all my nutritional targets on the nose. The only one I didn't get was sodium: I NEVER hit the sodium targets. I was much lower than normal (I average 4-5k, today was just over 3k) so I'll count that as a win.

I'm going to keep moving forward, babying my ankle, but I know I need to MOVE if it's going to get back where it was. It's been almost a month now! Don't worry, I'm not straining it, and I'm paying close attention.

Anyway, things are going well. I just need to keep exercising every day. I'm aiming for 10 minutes while my ankle's still not 100%. I'll build back up to 30 later!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Back from hiatus... a family update

I feel like I need to get these thoughts out somehow, in blog form, and while this blog is fitness related, this somewhat relates, and well, it's my blog, I can go OT if I want to.

Yesterday, my 7 year old daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, ODD, and anxiety. These are not a surprise, we've suspected for years, but fought getting her diagnosed. She's only in 1st grade, and frankly, in Kindergarten and Preschool, it wasn't an issue. This year, though, we had to admit that there is a serious problem, and it's starting to affect her grades and ability to function in school, not to mention the other children in her class.

So we took her in to be evaluated. It's been a painfully slow process, with sometimes months between visits because of the popularity of the particular practice. But we got a cancellation last week, and Monday, we went in for the results of her screening.

The short of it is that we'll be trying medication first. The psychologist hopes that by treating the ADHD, the other issues will fade away, that they're caused by the ADHD and her inability to focus. I can agree with that, and we're just going to take this one step at a time.

The psychologist also offered us some excellent tips for managing her schoolwork in the mean time, including very practical, specific steps. Because she's so kinetic, she needs movement, and sometimes, it's better not to fight it.

One of her suggestions was to get a big white board, and let her use that to work out her school problems. She can write large, and really engage her motor skills to help her focus. I'm willing to try anything!

So today, my daughter started edging towards one of her frustration meltdowns because of the sentences she had to write. So, I got out their old chalkboard/whiteboard easel, handed her a marker, and told her to write it out up there! She was instantly all smiles. Each time, she stood up, wrote the sentences in big letters, then transcribed them to her page.

It worked. She really focused, and at the end, she was smiling.  Another meltdown while doing her math homework was averted in the same way. By drawing it out on the board, it helped her focus, and the motion helped her discharge some of that energy.

It feels good to have a name, and concrete steps to take to get her functional. There's a light at the end of the tunnel. I don't want her on medication, but I can't deny the positive effect medication has had on my husband. No one wants their child on medication. But this isn't about what I want, or what my husband wants, nor even what her teacher wants. It's about what she needs. And I'll do what it takes to get her that.

In fitness related news, yes, I've been completely off the wagon. This is one of the reasons I haven't been posting. However, I'm back on it... or will be as soon as my damn ankle heals.

See, I fell. I wasn't even doing something cool, like training for a 5k, or doing jump squats, or any of the other million dangerous exercises I've done over the last year. No, I feel and sprained my ankle walking to the car on the way to see the Hobbit.

Like a true LOTR fan, though, I fought through the pain, and went to see the damn movie.

It was not, fortunately, a bad sprain, I could walk on it, and I avoided the ER (no insurance, and well, they're just going to wrap it and give me some painkillers.  I have ibuprofen.

I had just completed week one of Six to Start's new Zombies, Run! 5k training (yes, the sister app to Zombies, Run!) and was ready to hit week two when this happened.

I'm ready to get started again, but my ankle still hurts when I put too much strain on it. I probably need to start walking soon to rebuild strength.

Ah well. Here's to 2013!